Stephanie Stewart, an honors student at Borough of Manhattan Community College, was pregnant and due to deliver before the end of spring semester last year. Her professor said she wouldn’t be able to make up tests or assignments missed due to medical appointments or labor and delivery. A dean advised her to drop the class.
Stewart was taking a women’s studies class, notes Slate. After her son was born, she discovered that Title IX requires schools to let pregnant students reschedule exams. With the help of the National Women’s Law Center, she sued the City University of New York system for pregnancy discrimination and won. CUNY agreed to reinstate her scholarship, reimburse her for the make-up class and adopt a policy on the rights of pregnant students and parents.
Stewart will graduate this spring and enroll in New York University in the fall.
A blogger called The Feminist Breeder has spread awareness of pregnancy discrimination, says Lara Kaufmann, NWLC’s senior counsel and director of education policy for at-risk students.
About 15 percent of CUNY students are parents and 58.4 are women. Nationwide, women who have children after enrolling in community college are much less likely to graduate than female students who don’t become pregnant.
Preventing unplanned pregnancy can raise graduation rates, reports Community College Times. Sixty-one percent of women who have children after enrolling in a community college don’t graduate, according to the Make It Personal: College Completion (MIPCC) project.
American Association of Community Colleges and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy are educating students, faculty and staff at six community colleges about the impact of unplanned pregnancies.
The report calls for including discussions about pregnancy prevention and healthy relationships in courses such as English and sociology.
At Montgomery College in Maryland, information about postponing pregnancy was integrated into more than 20 different courses. A professor at Hennepin Technical College in Minnesota restructured her developmental psychology courses to include “multigenerational perspectives on the effects of unplanned pregnancy.”
And at Palo Alto College in Texas, a communications instructor had students write sample press releases promoting National Campaign resources.
The report also suggests including pregnancy prevention discussions in orientation and first-year experience courses and providing online resources about pregnancy prevention with other student services links.
Sociology students at Georgia’s Chattahoochee Technical College held two campus-wide events to distribute information and watch videos created by students.
At Mesa Community College in Arizona, student leaders in the Phi Theta Kappa chapter launched Project HOPE (Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Education).
Student leaders at Georgia Perimeter College held discussions on the topic while watching episodes of MTV’s “16 and Pregnant.”
Hours after his daughter was born, 18-year-old Juan Betancur attended college orientation, but he couldn’t handle working six days a week, helping care for a baby and going to college. Like many young parents, he dropped out. Now 28, he’s attending Georgia Perimeter College and starring in Nine Months, a video on teen pregnancy made by students in Tamra Ortgies-Young’s Introduction to Public Administration class.
Sixty-one percent of women who give birth while attending community college drop out and do not return to school. Betancur understands why, he tells Community College Times.
“It’s extremely difficult. I don’t sleep much,” said Betancur, who is taking eight credit hours this fall, working full time and serving as the custodial parent of his now 10-year-old daughter. He plans to complete his associate degree in December and then transfer to Georgia State University.
“I’m just more motivated than ever and more determined to succeed and get my degree and to get myself and my daughter a better life, so I just push through,” Betancur added.
In addition to making three videos, Ortgies-Young’s students also wrote research papers on unplanned pregnancy, participated in attitude and behavior surveys, and wrote online journals on the financial and personal costs of unplanned pregnancies.
GPC is one of five community colleges participating in Make It Personal: College Completion, a project of the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Half of all pregnancies in the U.S.—about 3 million a year—are unplanned, according to the campaign. Community college students who already are parents will be more likely to graduate if they postpone another pregnancy.